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Driving is believing: launching the Chevrolet Volt

December 22, 2010 MullenLowe

While sitting in a rear passenger seat of the new Chevy Volt, as the car careened through the streets and avenues of New York at top speeds on Marathon Sunday, I could tell from the whites of my knuckles that the Volt is an amazing piece of machinery, and that this was like no other press junket. At the wheel was David Pogue, the New York Times technology reporter, and he was racing to get home, doing his best impersonation of Mario Andretti while gunning GM’s breakthrough electric vehicle with extended range.

The journey really started a month earlier when Chevrolet kicked off the 3,400-mile, cross-country 12-city Volt Unplugged Tour. And my white-knuckle ride was the conclusion of Mullen’s support for the tour’s largest stop in New York City, November 4-7. Our boots-on-the-ground goal was to get influential, New York-based, consumer media like Pogue and everyday consumer drivers behind the wheel and interacting with the automobiles, ultimately becoming more enlightened about the Volt, the Chevrolet brand, and electric cars in general.

Before arriving in the Big Apple, we arranged for Crunch Gear, Engadget, National Geographic, and CNN to drive Volts from Washington D.C. to demonstrate that the car is designed to make long journeys. And because New York City is not very driver-friendly, we created a variety of Volt experiences, like “over-night parties,” during which journalists had the chance to experience life with the Volt at their homes and charge it – using a standard 120 volt or 240 volt outlet.

Over the weekend, Volt “shuttles,” driven by those brave enough to drive in Manhattan, departed regularly from the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, giving drivers the opportunity to take a new car for a spin. Over the course of four days, nearly 200 test drives were facilitated with the curious man and woman on the street, as well as key media outlets like Bloomberg BusinessWeek, CBS, Discovery and Rolling Stone.

To underscore how this extraordinary car could do ordinary things, we took the Volts to key locations throughout the area – innovators like LG, energy companies like PSE&G, and major shopping malls – to extend our reach and impact and to highlight the importance of infrastructure to the future of electric vehicles.

Over the course of four days, more than 500 media and consumers got to put their hands at 10 and 2 o’clock on the Volt steering wheel. Media sang the praises of the Volt to their curious readers and audiences. Our efforts with GM generated hundreds of blog posts, online articles and TV spots, and millions of impressions. But the impression that stuck with me the most was what Pogue himself had to say about his drive on his blog: “I love the concept, I love that it’s stodgy old General Motors that’s zigging in this direction and I love that it finally brought this thing to market. I guess you could say that the Volt electric car has me energized.”